Having written recently about the man-made extension to the mouth of the Tees behind Redcar steelworks (South Gare), I felt in the interests of balance that I should venture across the river to its northern counterpart.
The area directly north of the Tees mouth features two nature reserves, and having been freshly inspired by my daughter Megan’s discovery of Xavi Bou’s Ornitographs, it seemed a promising location for capturing birds in flight; perhaps with the interesting background of a sunrise over the industry of the area.
Of course these things never go to plan do they?
The first site I visited was Seal Sands, where I soon found the path that would lead me past a couple of hides along Greatham Creek to an area where seals were a dead certainty.
The path was closed for constructing flood defences. To be fair one of the hides was still accessible, but there was another factor in play. A thick layer of freezing fog that obscured anything at distance, including the rising sun 93 million miles away. A few ducks, a couple of geese and a seagull swam by, though the eery calls of curlew made it clear that more interesting quarry was enjoying my failure.
So onto North Gare, a spit of land built in the same way as its southern neighbour (slag from the steelworks) that nature had clothed with drifting sands and dune grasses around a curving bay known locally as The Blue Lagoon. Populated by lapwings, curlew, redshank and wigeon this might have been my chance to emulate Signor Bou but I quickly realised that some knowledge of likely flight paths was required in order to anticipate with appropriate camera settings. Maybe next time I go then!
I left the birds on their patch of grassy common and traversed the inevitable golf course towards the sea and that lagoon. The copious fog rendered it anything but blue, but then it occurred to me that I might just be missing the point. Iceland’s blue lagoon is known for its steaming waters as much as its colour and today the fog emulated that effect. What’s more the Icelandic original features as it’s backdrop the geothermal plant that creates the warm waters as a by-product.
Here we have the shadow of Hartlepool Nuclear Power station, the decommissioned Brent Delta oil rig which is slowly being scrapped and the steelworks across the river. Everything was in place except the warming waters. Instead the sands around the lagoon were coated in frost.
In this area where iron and steel were once the lifeblood it seems I had unsurprisingly encountered irony!